Thursday, September 04, 2008

Officer "Corrupto" Charged With Obstruction

San Diego police officer nicknamed “Corrupto” was charged yesterday with using his position to pass information about a narcotics investigation to drug-trafficking suspects.

Related documents
Tapia indictment (PDF)

Officer Juan Hurtado Tapia, 38, was arraigned on federal charges of obstruction, fraud and making false statements, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

FBI and Drug Enforcement Administration agents arrested Tapia on Tuesday at the downtown federal building. He remained in federal custody yesterday, said David Ramirez, San Diego police executive assistant chief.

Ramirez said Tapia's police powers were revoked in August, and he was placed on unpaid leave yesterday.

“We were aware he was being looked at as a possible suspect in this case,” Ramirez said.
Tapia worked as a patrol officer in the Southern Division for his 7½ years with the department, Ramirez said. In 2005, Tapia won an award from the county Auto Theft Advisory Committee for recovering stolen cars.

A federal complaint says Tapia used a police computer to run criminal history checks for suspects in a drug-trafficking ring. It also alleges that he warned at least one suspect against trying to cross the border from Mexico one night.

San Diego police and the DEA were running separate heroin-sales investigations when they realized they were after some of the same men, the federal complaint says. The police investigation started in October. Federal authorities arrested one man, Adrian Jovan Rocha, in April on suspicion of trying to bring 14 pounds of methamphetamine into the United States.

Working together, the two agencies made drug buys and used court-authorized wiretaps to listen to dealers arranging heroin and meth deliveries. In phone conversations in May, two men talked of getting information on Rocha from a San Diego officer referred to as “Corrupto,” the complaint says.

On May 9, the complaint says, investigators learned that a San Diego patrol officer named Juan, while assigned to the Border Crimes Task Force, had seen an organizational chart naming suspects in the heroin investigation. One suspect worked for a business run by Tapia's family.

Agents arrested four trafficking suspects – William Jesus Amezcua-Flores, Alexander Florencio Mayorquin, Raul Rodriguez-Orozco and Juan Ramon Perez-Mascurro – in July. They were indicted in August and face pretrial hearings Sept. 22, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Smith Jr. said.

FBI agents questioned Tapia in July, and he denied warning Mayorquin not to cross the border, the complaint says. It also says Tapia did not consider his discussion of information with Amezcua-Flores to be a warning.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Leo S. Papas set a preliminary hearing for Tapia on Sept. 16.

Officer Jim Crowley Arrested for Being Drunk While on Duty

The Aspen police chief is defending his decision to fire an officer accused of reporting to work drunk, but an attorney helping the officer says he had a hangover and hadn't been drinking immediately before going on duty.

Jim Crowley, an 18-year veteran of the Aspen force, was dismissed last week and arrested on suspicion of driving while ability-impaired and prohibited use of a weapon.

Police say Crowley smelled of alcohol when he reported on Aug. 28, and a breath test showed his blood-alcohol level at .063, above the 0.05 threshold for driving impaired. Another officer drove him home, where he was arrested later by police from nearby Snowmass Village, who were asked to take over the case.

"I know the question on some people's minds is this was a drastic action," Aspen Police Chief Richard Pryor said Tuesday. "But the distinction for me is this was behavior that is not acceptable. This was a safety issue and not something I could live with. And I've consulted with our attorney, and I believe we're on solid ground and ethical ground."

Pryor said the weapons charge was filed because Crowley had a firearm in his holster at the time he was allegedly intoxicated.

Pitkin County Assistant District Attorney Jeff Cheney said no decision had been made on whether to proceed with a criminal case.

Attorney Lawson Wills, who said he is providing legal advice to Crowley as a friend, said Crowley told him he went to work with a hangover.

"This is not a situation where he was drinking before work," he said.

Wills questioned the ability-impaired charge because, he said, no one witnessed Crowley driving to work.

Wills said he will not be Crowley's attorney in any court proceedings.

Officer Christopher Russell on Administrative Leave After being charged with DUI


A Kennebunk police officer is on administrative leave after being charged with operating under the influence stemming from an Aug. 19 motor vehicle accident.

Patrol Officer Christopher Russell, who serves as the juvenile officer and senior citizen liaison, is currently on administrative leave, said Kennebunk Police.

When contacted, Kennebunk Police Lt. Nick Higgins said the department could not comment on an allegation of criminal conduct by an on- or off-duty police officer.

"If there was an allegation that the department was made aware of there would be an investigation into that alleged conduct," said Higgins Tuesday during a phone interview.

Russell, 27, of Wells, was charged with operating under the influence after skidding through an intersection and hitting a Branch Road guardrail, said Wells police.

Attempts to reach Russell were unsuccessful.

According to Wells Police, Russell was driving down Chick Crossing Road about 11 p.m. when his sunglasses fell onto the floor of his 2002 Dodge pickup truck.

He reached down to pick up the eyewear, but was approaching a stop sign at the Branch Road (Route 9A) intersection and hit his brakes said Wells Police.

Russell went through the stop sign, running off the road and struck a guardrail causing $1,500 worth of damage to the pickup truck, Wells Police said.

No injuries were reported, police said.

Police said they responded to the scene around 11:20 p.m. after receiving reports of the accident from callers, including one place by Russell.

Wells Police Chief Jo-Ann Putnam said the sunglasses most likely slid off the dashboard and that Russell tried to pick them up so the eyewear didn't get caught on the vehicle's pedals.

"It was 11 o'clock at night, he probably didn't have (the sunglasses) on," said Putnam.

Putnam said the police have forwarded the report to the district attorney's office for review.

"I don't know of any other charges at this point," said Putnam. "We're not anticipating any further charges."

Russell is scheduled for an Oct. 30 arraignment in York District Court.

Officer Brad Wheeler Arrested for Drunk Driving


An off-duty New Hampshire police officer turned down a chance to avoid a sobriety checkpoint and ended up getting charged with drunken driving.

Franklin police say they arrested Brad Wheeler - a police corporal in Newbury - after he failed a sobriety test during the weekend.

State law requires police to warn drivers they are approaching checkpoints so they can choose alternate routes. Franklin police say they assume Wheeler saw a warning sign but chose to go through the checkpoint.

They say he was put in a holding cell and his car was towed after his arrest.

Newbury police declined to say whether the arrest would affect Wheeler's job.

Information from: WMUR-TV,

Police Deny Using Excessive Force

Authorities in Minnesota's Twin Cities have created "a climate of intense police intimidation," protesters at the Republican National Convention contend, but officials say they're merely preserving the peace.

As of 9 a.m. CT Thursday, 422 people had been arrested since the convention began, according to law enforcement's Joint Information Center. Only 40 were still in custody earlier in the day.

St. Paul police had arrested 145 individuals on felony charges, 107 on misdemeanors, and 53 on gross misdemeanors, said Deputy Tracy Martin of the Hennepin County Sheriff's Department. She did not know the charges against 15 others.

More than 100 were detained Wednesday night after a Rage Against the Machine concert, Minneapolis Police Chief Tim Dolan said Thursday. None were charged with felonies.

Most were given citations and released, but about 15 remained in jail after refusing to identify themselves, he said.

"The bottom line with those individuals is they wanted to be arrested," Dolan said.

Another demonstration is due to begin at 5 p.m. before Arizona Sen. John McCain gives his nomination acceptance speech at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

The RNC Welcoming Committee, a self-described anarchist/anti-authoritarian organizing body that has been behind many of the protests, said more than 300 demonstrators were being held as of Wednesday at the Ramsey and Hennepin county jails.

Numerous federal agencies are helping with convention security, but the anarchist group is focusing its outrage at Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher.

"We demand the immediate end to the brutality of Sheriff Bob Fletcher -- who has personally harassed our organizers both in jail and out," the group said.

Fletcher spokeswoman Holli Drinkwine said the hard-core protesters deserved special attention from the police. Eight people arrested during raids last weekend face felony charges including second-degree conspiracy to commit riot in furtherance of terrorism, she said.

Convictions could result in more than 10 years in prison, she said.

"This group had been planning for over a year the destruction that they were going to place on the city during the RNC," Drinkwine said.

Among the acts of terror the group allegedly planned, according to court documents, were kidnapping delegates, sabotaging a local airport, damaging bridges and taking over federal buildings.

"Their ultimate goal was to crash the convention," she said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said it was providing limited representation to many of those arrested during street demonstrations and raids on meeting places.

"Free speech has to be safeguarded during the Republican National Convention, as the workings of our democracy in the streets are as important as those in convention halls," ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero said in a written statement. Watch a woman's shock at being arrested »

iReporter Bob Stewart, a student in Minneapolis, said he saw a group of about 40 protesters in St. Paul vandalize a garbage bin and a bus as they marched toward the Xcel Energy Center earlier this week.

"The cops were pretty cautious. They were holding back," Stewart said. "It wasn't until we got downtown in the streets where they started to more aggressively approach the protesters."

Things started to get out of hand at that point, and police fired bean bags into the crowd, which took off in two directions, he said.

St. Paul Police Chief John Harrington said officers with all the agencies working the convention are trained to give protesters an opportunity to leave the area and issue verbal warnings before using chemical agents or projectiles.

Officers who are attacked are authorized to use pepper spray or Mace without issuing a warning, Harrington said.

An iReporter captured video of a police officer being tackled by a protester while trying to make an arrest; while still on his knees, the officer randomly sprays the surrounding crowd with a chemical agent, then walks away without his detainee. Watch the officer hit the deck »

"There were 10,000 protesters here on Monday -- peaceful protesters -- and there were right around 300 arrests for people who were not peaceful protesters," Drinkwine, the Ramsey County sheriff's spokeswoman, said. "These were people who were doing damages to the city that are criminal.

"There were moms and dads with little kids walking down the street, and then there were people that were setting fire to Dumpsters and throwing feces on state troopers' vehicles and things like that.

"The police showed great restraint in what they were doing," she continued. "They were dealing with 300 criminals on the street while trying to protect the 10,000 peaceful protesters that were in St. Paul that day."

Harrington said having the convention in St. Paul has been worthwhile despite the trouble in the streets.

"Yes, we were tested. But I think that's part of the experience of developing and growing," he said. "... On balance, this has been a great event."



Officer David Flaig Was Not Charged

A Williamsburg Borough Police officer currently suspended with pay will not be charged for any criminal misconduct.

State Police say their investigation into Officer David Flaig’s actions has concluded. Flaig was suspended form the department after Williamsburg Mayor John Traxler contacted State Police and requested the investigation.

State Police say the investigation focused on three areas. First, Flaig was accused of showing a minor a cartoon video that included sexual references. The boy and his mother declined prosecution. Next, Flaig was accused of making inappropriate comments to several women while on duty. State Police interviewed the women, each of whom declined any prosecution. The third accusation was that Flaig tampered with official police documents. It involved two traffic tickets issued by a former police officer. State Police say nothing illegal occurred.

State Police say the case has now been turned back over to the Williamsburg Mayor and City Council.